With its full slate of racing, stellar riding and huge industry expo, the Sea Otter Classic in Monterey, CA is cycling’s rite of spring and is not to be missed. True to form, the Dirt Rag/Bicycle Times World Tour loaded up the kit and kaboodle, and headed west for some California sunburn. From our prime spot in the expo, we shared the love with free magazine samples to Otter-goers. Thanks to our sponsors Kenda and SKS, folks who subscribed or renewed walked away with some sweet swag.


An ever-increasing number of companies are using the Sea Otter as an opportunity to launch new products, and my new position as Product Testing coordinator had me steppin’ and fetchin’ from booth to booth, trying to get the scoop on as many goodies as humanly possible. Frankly, there’s more going on than one person can cover during the four-day event, but I did manage to get the skinny on bushels of juicy produce. Since it was product 24/7 for me, that’s what this report will focus on. So, without further ado, let’s get to the goods.

Both SRAM and Shimano are rolling out 10-speed mountain bike drivetrains throughout their lineups. SRAM X7, X9, XO and XX groups all received a 10-speed makeover, with both 2×10 (26-39t or 28-42t) and 3×10 (22-33-44t) options available, and a cassette sporting a 36t max cog. Each group has a tight, color-coordinated graphic design, with multiple color options on the cranks, derailleurs, shifters and brakes that ties the group together for a visually appealing package. In addition to my live shots in the gallery at the bottom of this post, I’ve included a "stock graphic" below that better illustrates the visuals. I’m looking to get a 10-speed set-up for full review in Dirt Rag. Check out sram2x10.com for full tech details.


All of Shimano’s 10-speed mountain groups are dubbed Dyna-Sys, which get their own mini-website with more details. Bikes with Dyna-Sys Deore XT and SLX are starting to show up on dealer floors this season. Dyna-Sys features a more closely spaced front gearing range (24-32-42t triple) combined with a wider range 10-speed cogset in the rear (with 36t max). The resulting optimized gear array is designed to create smoother, seamless, and more efficient pedaling. I managed a short test-ride on the new XT group, and came away impressed by the crisp and quick shifting. The plan is to get a 10-speed group for full review in Dirt Rag.


Rocky Mountain launched their updated 2011 Slayer and brought a handful of samples with them. The rear suspension travel increases to 165mm (was 150mm) and the frame weight drops a full pound. Speaking of rear suspension, the Slayer gets a new, patented pivot placement that Rocky dubs the "SmoothLink," which is designed to combat bob and produce a linear rising rate curve for predictable and easy shock adjustments throughout the travel. Rocky’s "StraightUp" geometry sports a "steeper than normal" 75 degree seat angle that is designed to put the rider in a proper pedaling position with the suspension sagged, as opposed sitting too far back and wallowing over the rear wheel. Details include a tapered head tube, E-type front D, 12x142mm rear thru-axle, ISCG mounts, and guides for a telescopic seatpost. Expect this bike to hit shops in August at three price points: $2899, $3499 and $4499. I had a quick half-hour ride on the Slayer and must say that it pedals and climbs very well for a 165mm bike, and of course was a total blast when pointed downhill. This rig is on my short list of Dirt Rag review bikes, so stay tuned for a thorough thrashing. A quick peek below, and more photos in the gallery.

2011 Rocky Mountain Slayer

Santa Cruz is also on the A-list for new test bikes. They just launched a new APP (Actual Pivot Point) platform, which is essentially a fresh take on the venerable single-pivot suspension, and involves an updated linkage system. The Nickel measures in at 5" of cross-country friendly travel, and the Butcher is an all-new 6" all-mountain offering.

Santa Cruz Nickel

Santa Cruz Butcher.

The Ellsworth Enlightenment is another hot, new bike on my short list to acquire for review. Ellsworth’s beautiful "Rare Earth" carbon frame weighs in at 2.7 lbs. and features a bolt-on rear dropout that allows for conversion between singlespeed and geared mode, as well as Gates belt dive installation. The look is swoopy-fast and very clean, thanks in large part to internal cable routing. Both 26" and 29" frames are available at $1995 MSRP. Four geared builds, ranging from $3200 to $4600, are offered. Here’s a look at a custom belt-drive singlespeed build (more pics in gallery).

Ellsworth Enlightenment

Dirt Rag has reviewed other ABP-, Full Floater-, EVO-link-equipped bikes from Trek, but we’ve not yet had a chance to check out the Scratch. I stopped by to catch up with our former editor, and current Trek MTB brand manager, Michael Browne—and to eyeball the Scratch. With 160/170mm of F/R travel, and a triple-ring model with air shock weighing in at 31 lbs., the Scratch appears ready and willing for a test pilot to put it through its paces. I’ll do my best to oblige.

Trek Scratch Air 8.

Mike Raney of Commencal (and former Pittsburgher) was on hand, so I stopped by to thank him for agreeing to send in a Supreme (and Supreme DH) for Justin to put through the paces at the races. If all goes according to plan, Justin will be competing at some regional Gravity East Series races, atop a Commencal Supreme test bike, and then penning a review.

Commencal Supreme Frame.

Intense just announced a new Tracer 29 full suspension 29er with 5 or 5.5" of user-selectable travel. The removable/replaceable dropouts allow 1/4" adjustment of the chainstay length (17.75" or 18.0") and 1 degree of head angle tweakage. Other specs include full 1.5" headtube, direct mount front D, standard QR or 142mm QR rear axle options, ISCG tabs and 140-150mm front travel compatibility. Yep,  another bike to pencil into our review schedule.

Intense Tracer 29 sports 5" or 5.5" of user-selectable travel.

Airborne took the opportunity at the Sea Otter to totally re-launch the brand. We met with industry veteran Reed Pike, Airborne’s product manager, to have a look at the lineup, which consists of six budget-priced aluminum mountain bikes, ranging from hardtail to DH models. Airborne is going with an internet-based sales model, and currently their bikes are available through www.rscycle.com and www.giantnerd.com. We’ll get a test pilot atop one of these.

Airborne's Reed Pike with their Taka model.

Fox Racing Shox offered a tech clinic, where I attempted to cram more information into my head without exploding it. Fox covered a lot of ground, but I want to talk about their new 32 TALAS 29 fork that offers 120mm of travel (along with the ability to decrease travel to 95 mm on the fly) and FIT Terralogic damper technology. Dirt Rag has had this fork, with the optional 15QR thru axle, under test for some time, but we were sworn to secrecy until the fork was announced at the Sea Otter. Look for our review in print soon.

Fox Racing Shox Tech Clinic.

It’s been said that "a picture is worth a thousand words," and at this point, I’m going to put that adage to use—and drop a gallery with pictures/captions of goodies from Sidi shoes, Niterider lights, Crank Brothers components, Jamis bicycles, Maxxis tires, Bebop pedals, NuVinci, Fizik saddles, Dromarti shoes, Bontrager components, Light and Motion lights, Hayes brakes, DT Swiss, Lezyne, Inno Racks, Schwalbe tires, Easton components, Specialized bikes, Five Ten shoes, Kona bicycles, Lizard Skins, Gary Fisher bicycles, Mavic, Norco, Club Ride Apparel, IceToolz, Kore components, Osprey packs, Exposure lights and BionX. If I have my way, you’ll see plenty of the following items reviewed in the pages of Dirt Rag and Bicycle Times down the road.